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Posts tagged ‘outdoors’

roaming round the Robberg Peninsula

Much like Nature’s Valley, which proved to be our favorite spot in South Africa after we nearly passed it by, the Robberg Nature Reserve – which we nearly skipped – provided some of the trip’s most memorable moments. The key difference is that it was not lack of research – but rather too much of it – that nearly caused us to miss out on one of the Garden Route’s best hikes.

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Nature’s Valley

Of the many places we visited during our two weeks in South Africa the one that stands out above all others for its unparalleled tranquility, natural beauty, and down-to-earth charm is Nature’s Valley. Incredibly, despite the considerable amount of research that went into planning our Garden Route road trip, we were completely unaware of its existence until pure happenstance led us there.

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animal valley

In addition to a scenic coastline, great food and wine, and amazing hiking, the opportunity to see wild animals up close is one of South Africa’s main draws. We did not visit the world-famous Kruger National Park on this trip, a day in Addo being our only real safari of the vacation. However, upon entering the Garden Route, we discovered that we were staying in an “animal valley” of sorts, which offered a different kind of wildlife experience from the game drives we’ve come to love over the course of almost four years on the African continent.

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the garden route

After spending a day with the elephants of Addo, we repacked the car and headed south toward the Garden Route – South Africa’s answer to Big Sur. Spanning some 300 kilometers (almost 200 miles) from Storms River to Mossel Bay, the Garden Route traverses several parks, with the main N2 highway sometimes running along the Cape shoreline and at other times winding inland into the mountains.

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through the eyes of a child

In addition to using our Nikon SLR and iPhones to document our travels, we also brought a small shock-proof, water-resistant Olympus camera. We had originally purchased it for adventure travel, but given that adventuring has taken a backseat to parenting, we’ve found a new use for the camera: we gave it to our son, curious to see how our travels would look from his vantage point.

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elephant sanctuary

Our first stop, after alighting in Port Elizabeth and picking up our rental car, was Avoca – an hour’s drive north into South Africa’s citrus-growing Sundays River Valley. S found a family-run farm that offered accommodation in modernized mud huts, cottages, and chalets scattered along the riverbank, which seemed like an excellent starting point for our journey.

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much love for the Rainbow Nation

Our brief Cape Town “babymoon” last year was our first visit to South Africa. Even as many of our friends raved about the joys of South African travel, we had put off visiting the country much like one would put off traveling to London, Paris, or New York. Big, international, destinations with airline hubs are easy to reach, so it always seemed like we would have plenty of opportunities to go. In fact, when S had suggested South Africa as a possible travel destination early into our Nairobi tour, D shrugged off the suggestion and told her that climbing Kilimanjaro and rafting the Nile were much higher priorities on his list.

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adventuring in Amsterdam

S has visited the Netherlands several times: first on a full day layover on her way back from study abroad in Ghana; then again for a two-week research project for her college thesis; and finally with her parents for a week-long vacation when she was pregnant with Munchkin. Over the course of our six-and-a-half years in the Foreign Service, Amsterdam has become our transit hub of choice, especially considering the dearth of flight options into East Africa. Instead of simply flying through on her way to and from Tuscany, S decided to tack on a one-day layover in Amsterdam to see a close friend and explore a bit deeper one of her favorite European capitals.

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Italian staycation

In the months leading up to her Thanksgiving trip with her parents, S felt a bit like Goldilocks, with each potential destination initially appearing enticing only to be discarded upon further research as not quite right.

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British seaside

England’s southern coastline is not the world’s most alluring, but it is striking in its own way. After spending the last year and a half in landlocked Rwanda, moreover, D found it quite refreshing – both visually and meteorologically.

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